Leafs’ young bloods give rise to winning ways
Sports Jan 17, 2017 Nelson Santo
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been injected with young blood having the most rookies in their roster and it seems to be paying off so far. According to fans, the two making the most noise in the NHL are centre Auston Matthews and right winger Mitch Marner.
“I have been impressed so far with the Leafs and how they have been playing this year,” says Michael Luis, a 24 year old framer and loyal Leafs fan. “The team has been playing great and the rookies have been shining.”
The Leafs are currently in third place in the Atlantic division with 48 points, three points down from Boston, and have five games in hand. They’ve won eight of their last 10 games and have an impressive 20 wins so far this season.
This is a huge difference from last year where they finished the season with 69 points, the lowest for any team in the NHL. This allowed them to get the first draft pick and start their rebuild, which has been a significant part of the Leafs’ new look. The rebuild has shown significant progress this season with the team going above and beyond expectations.
The Leafs have four rookies in the top ten rookie scoring list. Matthews is tied for first with Patrik Laine, a winger for the Winnipeg Jets. The Leafs also have six of their rookies in the top thirty in the rookie scoring list, the most of any other team in the league.
The rookies have been leading the way on this team as Matthews sits with 37 points so far. The best last year on this team was Nazem Kadri with 45 points. But Matthews isn’t the only one lighting up the opponents net. Marner has 35 points and is tied for second on the Leafs scoring chart.
The jump is significant. But talk lately has been about whether the Leafs will keep this up and give fans a reason to believe the tide has turned for the better, or if they’ll slip back to the leafs we’ve known for the past several years.
“The Leafs have been paying well, making excellent plays,” says Ines Palazzo, 24 year old early childhood educator and Leafs fan.
Lately the discussion around this team is if it can make the playoffs this year after only one year into the eight-year rebuild plan by the Leaf organization.
“The way they’re playing they will make the playoffs,” says Ricardo Ferreira, construction worker and Leafs fan. “They will go to the first round but anything is possible.”
The jump in scoring has left the organization a bit behind in the plan they laid out for the next eight seasons since they weren’t expecting the team to be in this position yet.
“I didn’t think they would be in the playoff race but anything can happen,” says Luis.
Although they are killing expectations so far this season, fans still believe they need some more pieces before they can actually compete.
The youngest team ever to win a Stanley Cup was the Montreal Canadiens in 1985-1986 with the average age being 24.48 years old according to Sportingcharts.com. The average age of the Leafs this year is 25.61, which means they do have a good mix of veterans and young players to make some sort of push into and during the playoffs. But before they can think about the Stanley Cup, they still need some pieces to make the team a contender.
“They need a veteran defenseman, the blueline is too young and doesn’t know how to deal with pressure,” says Ferreira. “They also need more time and experience so they can be feared in the NHL like all the tough great teams.”
“I think they can win the Stanley Cup in a couple of years,” says Palazzo.